Dining With Denise Neil

Midwest Winefest turns 21, adds outdoor patio

The Midwest Winefest has lost its wine distributor in a disagreement over whether bars and restaurants at odds with the Catholic Church’s beliefs should be invited to participate.
The Midwest Winefest has lost its wine distributor in a disagreement over whether bars and restaurants at odds with the Catholic Church’s beliefs should be invited to participate. Courtesy photo

The Midwest Winefest is turning 21 this year, which has inspired a joke among its organizers.

“We’re finally old enough to drink,” said Dave Carter, one of the event’s planners.

To mark the big 2-1, the festival’s centerpiece – the grand tasting on Saturday night – will feature a new attraction with a little curb appeal.

The tasting will gain a patio just outside Century II on Kennedy Plaza. It will include festive lights visible from Douglas, live music, food samples from food trucks and beer and wine.

“We thought, ‘Maybe we should just try something a little additional – a fun thing to leverage the interest in food trucks,’ ” Carter said.

Here are five things not to miss at this year’s Midwest Winefest Grand Tasting, which is 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Century II.

1. Vineyard Patio: The new outdoor area will be accessible only to people already admitted to the grand tasting. They can stroll outside and try food samples at no extra charge from barbecue food truck Lynn’s Curbside Cookout and from Mr. Natural Soul Kitchen, whose owner will be there representing the new District Marketplace community park at 150 N. Cleveland. Donnie Hutchins has his truck stationed at the park permanently, but he’ll offer samples from an outdoor booth. The patio will also feature a beer and wine truck by Standard Beverage and music by popular local acoustic musician Bruce Huss.

2. Hundreds of wines: As usual, the grand tasting will feature nearly 300 different wines for sampling – plus beer and spirits. Attendees will get a bag at the entrance, which will contain a sampling glass. They can visit the booths and try pours of wines from vineyards like Hess, Josh Cellars, Oyster Bay, Parducci, Rombauer, Guenoc and more.

3. New restaurants, new food: The grand tasting is famous for its food, and this year will feature samples from 30 restaurants and caterers. The list of food providers includes several that have been coming for years, such as Abuelo’s, Sweet Basil and P.F. Chang’s, plus many other restaurants – Georges French Bistro, Greystone Steak & Seafood, Stroud’s and more. Midwest Winefest chairwoman Jodi Guillemette said she was particularly pleased that Tanya’s Soup Kitchen would return to the event; owner Tanya Tandoc always participated but died just a couple of months after last year’s festival. The restaurant’s new owners, Sarah Osborn-Bennett and Kelly Rae Leffel, have committed to returning, she said. Attendees will be asked to vote on the best food and best ambiance among the food booths.

4. Auction items: Organizers have tracked down a quality list of live and silent auction items, Guillemette said. The items will include a trip to the new Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, where the winner will be flown and invited to race a Porsche; a trip to Napa Valley; and several lots of rare wines.

5. A chance to help the cause: The winefest attracts nearly 2,500 people and raises around $350,000 for Guadalupe Clinic, which provides medical care to poor and uninsured patients. The winefest also included Thursday night’s sold-out Old Town Walkabout and three largely sold-out wine dinners on Friday.

Midwest Winefest’s grand tasting

What: A wine-sampling event featuring almost 300 different wines plus food from local restaurants

When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday

Where: Century II, 225 W. Douglas

How much: Tickets, which include a souvenir glass, 1-ounce pours of wine, food and a goodie bag, are $66 at the door or in advance at 316-219-4849, at the Century II box office or at www.wichitatix.com.

Info: www.midwestwinefest.com